France has objected to plans by the Council of Europe to issue a Euro coin to commemorate the Battle of Waterloo. The battle was the final defeat of Napoleon and took place two hundred years ago in Belgium.
This prompted the Belgian government to request the coin, but France decided to lodge a complaint against the issuing of the coin. In a letter to the council the French government said the coin would become “a symbol that is negative for a fraction of the European population”.
The letter which was shown to the Daily Telegraph, continued: “The Battle of Waterloo is an event with particular resonance in the collective conscience, going beyond a simple military conflict…
“The circulation of coins carrying a symbol that is negative for a fraction of the European population to us appears prejudicial, in a context where the governments of the eurozone are trying to strengthen unity and co-operation throughout the monetary union.”
Tory MP Sir Peter Luff said: “I’m delighted the Eurozone should celebrate the failure of France to create a European super-state.”
He continued: “They really should recognise that this is a momentous event in Europe’s history and an important one for freedom and democracy – which I’d have thought the French Republic would have celebrated, rather than sought to prevent.”
Peter Bone, the Conservative MP for Wellingborough, said: “It would seem extraordinary that this remarkable 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo should not be commemorated just because it would hurt the feelings of the French. The French should grow up a bit and support the Belgians.”
The Council of Europe confirmed they had received an objection from the French but defended them claiming it was their right to express unhappiness. They will now consider whether the French complaint is valid before making a final decision to mint the new coin.
The French have long been sensitive to mention of the epic battle – in which up to 55,000 soldiers a day died – they were unhappy when the newly opened Eurostar train service from London to Paris departed from Waterloo station. At the time they asked for the station to be renamed, leading to jokes that Agincourt might be a better name.